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Your Business

News/Business. A focus on issues facing small business in the United States.

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Us 4, Annette 3, New York 3, Roberta 3, Gerald 2, New York City 2, Cleveland 2, U.s. 2, Commerce 1, Superstorm Sandy 1, Lauri 1, Agnew 1, Ing 1, Sba 1, Rita 1, City 1, United States 1, Expos 1, Thain 1, Alfred 1,
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  MSNBC    Your Business    News/Business. A focus on issues  
   facing small business in the United States.  

    November 17, 2012
    2:30 - 3:00am PST  

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how can small businesses decimated by superstorm sandy bounce back? and one company that discovered customer involvement with their product helped make their operation more efficient. also, cash mobs. in the forefront of the shop small movement. that's all coming up next on "your business."
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hi there everyone. welcome to "your business," the show dedicated to giving you tips and advice to help your business grow. many east coast small businesses are still reeling from devastating effects of superstorm sandy and its aftermath. the storm which was fold up by a powerful nor'easter cost billions of damages in homes and devastated many new jersey and new york commercial districts. thousands of small businesses are trying to rebuild. insurance won't cover a lot of that damage so owners are desperately seeking financing to restore their companies. the federal government and the small business administration are reaching out to small business owners in need. >> if you've had damage we can help with recovery loans, and even if you haven't had physical
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damage but you've lost cash flow because the area has been shut down, we have an economic injury loan for you. so, if you go to sba.gov we have a sandy page and that will help lead you through all of the recovery steps. we have a customer service number, and i want to just make sure people know they can call our call center at 1-800-659-2955. 1-800-659-2955 and we can walk you step by step through the applications. >> senior management of disaster assistance for the u.s. chamber of commerce whose local branches are helping community businesses in this effort. and the commissioner of new york city's department of small business services. great to see you both. a very trying time for some people. robert, we were just talk towing. you took a tour of red hook an area here in new york city that was devastated. >> devastated. the sad thing is red hook has
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come such a long way. many entrepreneurs have set up shop there, i visit ad winery, wonderful man who makes key lime pies, glass cutter, designers, completely wiped out. 300 jobs at fairway, big supermarket there wiped out. and many of them are fighting back and looking to get back on their feet. >> i want to take this in two parts. what can you do if you're hit by a disaster and second what can you do to prepare for this. gerald talk to me very quickly. if you're a small business owner that was affected by this, where can you go? >> well the first thing that i would say is call our help desk. the u.s. chamber of commerce has set up national disaster help desk for small businesses to call if they don't know where to turn. that number is 1-888-my-biz-help
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which is 888-692-4943. we're asking small businesses to call our help desk. we have experienced counselors that are standing by to help businesses figure out the best way to recover. >> just a quick question, what do people need most? is it money? is it relocation? is it help cleaning up? >> capital is a major thing that's needed right now for small businesses. the small business administration is giving loans. very low interest loans over 30 years and that's going to happy lot of small businesses. another unique thing, the local chambers of commerce are doing, for example, the manhattan chamber of commerce has set up a fund for small businesses, and individuals can donate to this fund through a 501(c)3 and this fund will give small microgrants to small businesses in the area to help them recover. >> robert, one of the really
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petr hard things is you're starting from scratch again. it's scary to take that money and figure out how to pay it back. >> it. here in new york city we set up a zero interest loan for the first six months, 1% after that. we teamed up with goldman sachs and the n-economic development corporation to get that out. the good news is that many, over 1,000 inquiries already and dozens of companies are already in the pipeline for those loans. to get that ten, 15, 20, 25 thousand dollars out so people can pay their workers and do the necessary repairs to get up and running. >> let me talk about going forward. so this happened. it's awful. if you're a small business watching this what you can do to prepare for a disaster that might hit you, whether it is a tornado or earthquake or another hurricane? >> make sure you have the right insurance. make sure you have flood
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insurance. many p.m. don't understand flood insurance is separate from their typical insurance that's run by the federal government. so, you know, making sure you have those things. if you have inventory that's going to spoil, making sure you have a generator in case you lose power. making sure your employees are prepared, your suppliers are prepared. >> i couldn't emphasize enough. what gerald also said is insurance. sadly we run into so many companies that did not have their paper work in order. and don't have flood insurance. and it's a long road for them. >> it's devastating. >> yes, it is. >> thank you both so much for everything you're doing to help rebuild this business. i know you guys have a long road ahead of you and a lot of work but keep up the good work. >> thank you. for so many business owners doing what's best for thain bottom line means finding ways to stream line their operations.
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that may mean buying a new piece of equipment. but that's not always the case. one tennessee company is turning to its customers to make their process more efficient. ♪ >> they were there from the beginning. >> it was a fabulous experience. >> roberta said to me we can create something beautiful. >> rita, lauri and annette are the definition of satisfied customers. >> i had confidence that they knew exactly what to do. >> they each turned to memphis, tennessee's metal fabricators better known as msw for work at their homes. >> they built a covering for our porch. >> they did the front gates with the entire perimeter fenced. they did the balconies and my favorite the iron gates in the
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wine cellar. >> annette is build agnew house and wanted an original railing for a staircase. >> came here because i wanted options. >> while their needs may have been different the customer experience they got was the exact same. >> they wanted input from us, of course and we're welcoming it. >> msw's owners pride themselves on make being their business more personal than others like it. >> it's something we always offered to people. you have customers that want to take a very active part. you want them to be involved and happy in the decisions they are making now i want goes beyond just answering phone calls or suggesting designs for residential and commercial clients. >> have had customers that have sat down and they actually go we me through the building process. and it gives them a sense of ownership. they own that design. >> the hope is to give clients as many opportunities as possible to provide feedback
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because it's good for business. >> i think it's very important to listen and be in tune with your customers. >> the involvement of msw customers is key to its cash flow. i want reduces the chances of making a product that a customer doesn't want. >> you'll have the person that will come in and it will be hours and then they will decide on something, then they come back and say you know i changed my mind and we're back to square one and we'll do it all over again. but it's fun. >> that has resulted in an improvement in the company's overall efficiency. >> there's no money in rework and as i tell my customers, there's no money in wrong work so let's do it right for the first time. >> iron and other metals are not something easy network. once a cut is made there's no cost effective way to gun do what's been done. >> you look in some cases half the labor cost that you have to put back into the project that's
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not there in this day and time because everything is priced very tight. sometimes it's more economical to start from scratch and rebuild it. >> that's why they make every effort to maximize production. during the first step the design phase multiple sketches of one project is the norm. >> we've had people sit down at the table three or four hours pulling things, looking at things, sketching things. that can be one meeting, that can be three or four meetings, that can entail design drawings. it can entail showing paint samples. >> they have no problems spending hours or days getting those designs right because it helps manage work later. >> much easier to erase on a piece of paeper and get it right. >> it includes customer oversight of production. >> if it's something we're
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afraid they are not 100% sure of we definitely invite them to come and look at it and see the progress we're making. >> people like annette can give a thumbs up or thumbs down before work continues. >> much easier for them to change something out on their table, much easier to change it at that point. >> so why go to all this trouble? the truth is that having customers input every step of the way saves msw money. >> if i was putting a monetary number on it, it might save anywhere from ten to 30%. >> while the figures vary the difference is significant enough that roberta and mark would like more clients to follow suit. >> it's definitely something i encourage we do. i usually have their cell phone in my cell phone. >> the customer involvement
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model has not only made the business more efficient it's helped msw get more business through referrals. >> so much to be said for your customers to be involved with you that you build trust and that they love the product. >> that's why mark and roberta say other small business owners should to the same because customer involvement can have such a positive impact on your bottom line. >> i truly believe that it is the reason that we're still in business. >> the pledges found out firsthand that customer involvement though takes a lot of time can be an advantage to your small business. can it work for your company? let's turn to this week's board of directors. alfred is the senior vice president of multimedia editor-at-large at black enter tries.com and angela is president of savor the success.
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before we start, i mention your tie. a new tie coming out. >> i'm happy you guys know me for wearing bow ties. this is a signature collection of bow ties available this weekend at windsor net wear.com. >> we're supporting that small business. customer involvement. it makes so much sense. what i loved when he said there's no money in rework. >> i think that first of all all the rage is the spoke. let the customer be involved. let them be very engaged in every step of the process. then they take ownership. that's smart marketing. a healthy business has good, better and best pricing model. so your vip clients you can spend that kind of time as long as they are paying you what you need to live and to make a scaleable business. then you have other models that support that. so you've got a lower pricing structure and a middle and
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thaent vip. that's the healthiest way to keep business running. >> certainly anything is a high end, high price product is more cost effect squif to take the time to make sure the customer is getting what they want. they are paying for it, after all. as your example showed the cost them rejecting it after all that's been put into it is too costly for your business. i would take it a step further. one mistake entrepreneurs make they don't keep an eye on their money. the other mistake is they really don't listen to their customers. and that's like a gold mine of loyalty and attachment when the customer really feels that they have a say where they are serving them a cup of coffee or building them a great wrought iron gate they should have a say. that's the way business has to be done because customers have way too many choices. >> is there a flip side when you're spending way too much time with someone who is changing their mind over and over again.
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>> that's when you have to know to turn away some customers. >> and being very clear about your expectations. that's why i like she took the time to really perfect that drawing with the customer, that's so essential. >> do you charge for that? so, you know, you get three drawings for free but if you want 20 drawings then you have to pay me extra. >> absolutely. i really believe that you have to lead the customer. so you give them choice. but as you said her going to have to pay a premium for that. >> great. thanks you guys. >> small details can make a big difference in how are you business thrives on the internet. here now are five tips for a successful e commerce platform. one, make sure you have a good search box that helps people find what they are looking for. two, keep it simple. consumers are more likely to purchase your product if ethicout is streamlined and straightforward. three, offer extra features.
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provide services like wrapping, personalized notes and returns. these gives customers more reason to buy. four, give details. basic information like size and color are necessary, but it helps to also note things like how the put was made and how it will be shipped. and number five, make sure your shipping costs are clear before the customer's final check out. the earlier they know about additional charges the less likely they are to abandon their cart. when we return we'll answer your business questions, including really interesting one on the world of strategy and serendipity to achieve success. small business saturday is coming up and no one has been more involved in the shop local movement than the people behind the nation's cash mob phenomenon.
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>> and you know what? you have a marketing tool that's with you every day, your phone. so take advantage of it.
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always make sure that you have very clear beautiful pictures of your product on your phone so you can show it to anyone at any time. so it's your business tip number 12. be ready with a photo pitch on your phone. it is rapidly approaching small business saturday coming up on november 24th. we're getting the word out to get people to shop small and support their local businesses, especially when it comes to holiday shopping. it's what the cash mob movement is all about. unique way to get people to shop local. everybody. wave those 20s. let me see them. >> this mob of eager shoppers is not out to find a bargain at a giant superstore. >> might be more expensive but much more personal. >> they are a friendly mob, spontaneously descending on a local small business with the objective of spending $20. >> today i bought a pair of flip
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flops and bottle of wine. >> this is a cash mob. >> it doesn't require you to come out and spend a fortune. you come out and see what this is like and can't help but buy and enjoy. >> hey, come on in. ing? i nighting the cash mob movement in cleveland, ohio is a young lawyer who has a passion for meeting new people and supporting local small businesses. >> the slogan on our blog we each do a little we aldo a lot. if each person gives $20 to the store, 20 people will give them $400 and also get something back in return. it's not charity. >> there's three main rules. >> first rule is that you spend $20. the second rule is that you meet three new people that you didn't know before. the third sue have fun. >> it started in the fall of 2011 when andrew posted an invitation on his facebook page to show up in a cleveland neighborhood with $20 to spend on a local business.
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>> we use social media to get the word out but anti-social media. we're using social media to organize people socially and get them to actually meet each other face to face. >> the small grassroots campaign quickly took root. andrew set up a website instructing people how to start a cash mob and similar scenes played out throughout the country. caroline, the owner of the variety matter in new york describes the experience. >> it was just absolutely amazing. they were hoping for 40 people. we had over 100 people. three of us behind the counter, you know, quickly running people up and bagging things. >> on this particular saturday andrew orchestrated the very first international cash mob day. with over 200 cash mobs happening around the united states and the world.
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incleveland the mob was happening at a small natural food's grocery store called nature's bin. >> it's a fun, exciting environment. fun way to shop and also support a local store. >> how much did you spend today? >> exactly? $1402 and change. >> i just looked at the numbers from today, from 2:00 when cash mob started to 3:30 which is an hour and a half, we had over 300 people come through the store and they spent way more than $20. our total for that span of time, hour and a half, was $9,000. >> in new york the cash mob was happening at two local down stores. somersalt and bell port lie kwurs. >> i bought wine so that supports the community. >> the method for selecting a
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small business to be cash mobbed is simple. >> first they need to be locally owned and secondly they need to give back to their community. the second part you can't fake. you can say hey i'll start sponsoring a team, bring a cash nobody my business so i can do this. we generally look for people that have a long standing commitment to their communities. >> afterwards an true encourages the cash mob participants to hang out at a local watering hole. >> they do their shopping and congregate again so they can relax. there's an old saying you're not friends with people you like you're friends with people you do things with. >> with a lot of small businesses suffering a cash mob can give this selected small business a shot in the arm and some much needed exposure and support especially when business is slow. >> if a local business is relying on a cash mob to save it there's bigger problems with that business than a cash mob can fix. it's just a little bit of a
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boost. so when we go into one of these stores generally speaking there's a lot of people in the mob that have never gone to that store. when they go in they are bringing some money and expos our to the store. >> beyond the boost it gives the small business it's bringing people and communities together to make a difference. $20 at a time. >> i think the importance of the cash mob concept is to build community and show people that they have the power to make a difference in their in the community. is it the answer to our economy woes? absolutely not. but i really think that it's leading to something that can show people that they can make a difference. >> time now to answer some of your business questions. alfred and angela are with us again. the first one is planning versus luck. >> how much does strategy count and how much does serendipity count when you're on the road to finding a business? >> can you put numbers around this?
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>> you can't put numbers around it but the key is not to look at them as two separate things. serendipity is the fruit of strategy and planning and preparation. what you have is bad luck if an opportunity comes around and you can take advantage of it or you flub it because you're not prepared. strategy, planning, preparation, the fruit of that is serendipity. >> i agree with you so much. you make your own luck to certain extent. oh, you're so lucky you met that person. it's because you were at that event. >> to expand on that make plans god laughs. with an entrepreneur there's no better phrase. so the big thing for an entrepreneur, number one thing you have to be is quick and nimble. you need to be able to turn right, left as your customers want and as the trends expand. so it's very important to be able to pivot fast. >> let's move on the next one, this is about finding the right
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person for the job. >> how do you find a reputable independent sales person to bring your product to market. >> all i can say is that passion counts so much. if you get a sales person that's passionate and in line with your mission and what your company stands for that's worth its weight in gold. the greatest sales people are very excited and incentivized by good commission. >> if you can find someone who find as noncompeting product in your industry, you know they've got good contacts, you can check on them. >> relationships are key. experience is good but, again, the best sales people, the most experienced sales people are often unavailable. if you have passion and i believe in flat out greed you want sales, somebody who really wants to make money they will be wanting to learn. >> sales person i talked to said i get so many calls by companies
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wanting me to represent them. the first thing i need to know is that they are a reputable company. they are less worried about what do they think about me but if i sell your product you'll have product to sell. he needs to think it's a sales job on his own part. >> you have to prove you have a viable product. the best person in the world can't sell sand on the beach. you have to have something people want. no sales person is going to invest time and energy into it. >> and do they feel support by the company. >> let's move on the next one. this is about cashing in on social media. >> how would i be able to maximize my social network? >> you use social media quite a bit. >> so there are two or three things that people will pay for. networking, content and education. if you're a social network can provide one or the other, you you know, can make money through ads but you got to have masses of people coming to your website.
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i find that people are very eager, they are willing to pay for the connections and a lot for education. >> i would pick up on that on education. most sites don't have facebook numbers where you make a lot of money advertising. if you have a specialized area and this site does i think it's hunting and you can do videos on your site around, i don't know anything about hunting, then you can get companies in that space, to you know, sponsor pre-roll or post-roll on the video. >> advertising. you're both talking about advertising or use your sposhl media in a smart way that sells your product and monetizing your social kblaed. >> you want drive by behavior that you can use. >> thank you so much. very helpful. if any you out there have a question for our experts all have to do is go to our website.
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again that website is openforum.com/yourbusiness. or if you'd rather, you can e-mail us your questions and send in your comments as well. that address is yourbusiness aths misnbs.com. and make better decisions. to learn more about today's show just click on our website. it's openforum.com/yourbusiness. you'll find all of today's segments plus web exclusive content with more information to help your business grow. you can also follow us on twitter. it's @msnbcyourbiz. and please become a fan of the
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show on facebook. we love getting your feedback. next week in our special small business saturday show we look at a community hit hard by the recession, that created a monthly event to bring back customers. >> we have about 30, 40 people coming in that first night. and we knew we were on to something. >> how a group of retailers banded together to boost the bottom line. till then, i'm j.j. ramberg. and remember, we make your business, our business. you won't find a "home rule" on every corner, a "stag provisions" down every block, or a "hugh and crye" in every town. these are the small businesses of america, and all across the nation they're getting ready for their day. hundreds of thousands of small businesses are preparing for november 24, a day to open doors, and welcome the millions of customers